Most Appalachian State University students wait until after
they graduate to pursue their chosen fields professionally.
For photographer Tara Michelle Babb, it seems as if the world wouldn’t wait.
“After about six months after I came back to school, I started getting phone calls from people wanting me to shoot their weddings, portraits and family reunions, so I said OK,” Babb said.
Most of those people had seen Babb’s photo work through her Tara Michelle Photography website, taramphotography.com. Much of her student and professional portfolio is on the site, and while many fine art photographers prefer landscapes or old buildings, Babb has a knack for producing unbelievably beautiful photos of people.
“My favorite subjects to shoot are headshots or editorial photography … where a series of images tell a story,” she said. “Editorial photography is found a lot in magazines, and it has become very popular in wedding and engagement photography.”
Babb’s latest project is hosting a “boudoir” photo session, scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 17. Women who wish to give their husbands or boyfriends glamour shots of them in lingerie, or even nude, will meet Babb at an as-of-yet undisclosed location for individual photo shoots that will last about 30 to 45 minutes each.
“I’ve got a couple of different set options depending on how many people sign up,” Babb said of the photo shoot. “There is a lot of interest for these types of photo shoots, but I can’t do them at my apartment, and most client’s homes are not conducive to producing a good photo background.”
Babb got her start shooting nudes when a fellow female student at ASU wanted some headshots and nudes of herself for an art project.
“Some of the guys in the program were saying, ‘That’s no fair! Women won’t let us shoot them nude,’” Babb said. “But I feel like it is a really basic art form in photography, just as it is in painting.”
A native Texan, Babb moved with her family to Hendersonville when she was 14. She began taking photography seriously when she was in high school.
“People talk about where they were when 9/11 happened,” she said. “I was in my high school darkroom when it happened. I was literally in the dark.”
After graduating from high school in 2002, she thought about pursuing photography but was convinced by others that she could never make a career out of it.
“I had to figure out something else,” Babb said. “But everything kept leading me back to my love of photography.”
Eventually, she enrolled in ASU’s photography program and will earn a bachelor of science degree in technical photography at the end of this semester.
“Here you have to start with film,” she said. “That way, you learn the basics of photography and film. Students are required to use 35mm and large format cameras before they move on to digital photography. Some magazines still require film shots, so it’s a good skill to have.
“I prefer digital photography. It’s faster, cheaper, and I like being able to edit my photographs on a computer.”
Babb said she started editing her photographs with a free downloadable software called Gimp. After teaching herself the basics of digital photography, she has moved on to “Light Room,” a professional photography software program made by Adobe.
When asked about other photographers who inspire her, Babb mentioned Rosie Hardy, a photographer out of Derbyshire, U.K., who creates surreal portraits and self-portraits.
This summer, Babb photographed fellow ASU student and current Miss North Carolina Lindsey Shapiro for All About Women magazine. It was the second time this summer that Shapiro and Babb had collaborated on a photo project.
“When she got back from winning the Miss North Carolina competition, she looked for a photographer to develop her portfolio before she went to national competition in July,” Babb said. “One of the competitions she was competing in was ‘Most Photogenic,’ and she needed photos to submit. She looked all around for photographers until someone suggested she contact me. We worked together in developing her portfolio, and when she went to national competition in July, she won ‘Most Photogenic,’ based solely on the photos we took together.”
Babb said she’s excited to begin her professional journey. “Most likely, I will work as an assistant to a more established photographer until I learn the business side of the trade,” she said.
Or maybe not. With a growing reputation and client list, one could easily see Babb’s career taking off immediately – with or without the help of an established mentor.
“I love to photograph people, and I love to help women feel beautiful,” Babb said. “I’ve had women tell me that they don’t feel like they are photogenic. Every woman is photogenic. She just needs the right situation, the right setting and the right photographer.”
For more information, visit taramphotography.com.